EnviroThursday - "Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas"

12:00 PM  - 1:00 PM
Thursday Sep 21, 2017
Olin-Rice Science Center 250

Speaker:   Judith Carney, Dept. of Geography, UCLA - Introduction by Prof. Bill Moseley

Few Americans identify slavery with the cultivation of rice. Yet rice was a major plantation crop during the first centuries of settlement in the Americas. By the middle of the eighteenth century, rice plantations in South Carolina, and the enslaved Africans who worked them, had created one of the world’s most profitable economies. A longstanding question in American historiography is how rice, a crop introduced to the Americas, came to be cultivated in plantation societies. This lecture discusses the provenance of rice and its cultural antecedents in the Americas. It establishes, through agricultural and historical evidence, the independent domestication of rice in West Africa and the crop’s vital significance there for a millennium before Europeans arrived and the transatlantic slave trade began. This rice accompanied enslaved Africans throughout the New World, including Southern colonies, Brazil, and the Caribbean. Slaves from the West African rice region established rice as a food crop and provided the critical knowledge that enabled its cultivation. A comparative analysis of land use, methods of cultivation, processing and cooking traditions on both sides of the Atlantic during the plantation era help fill in the historical record. Recent genetics research and findings of African rice in botanical collections and among contemporary maroon societies of Suriname lend support for the African lineaments of rice culture in the Americas.

Judith Carney, professor of geography at UCLA and recipient of three distinguished teaching awards, is the author of two award-winning books: Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas and In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World. Her research centers on African ecology and development, food security, gender and agrarian change, and African contributions to New World environmental history. The Association of American Geographers has honored her with the Netting Award in recognition of distinguished research that bridges geography and anthropology, the Carl Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award for significant contributions to Latin American geography, and the Distinguished Scholarship Honors. Recent publications study the human usage of mangrove ecosystems in West Africa and the diaspora, the historical significance of recent genetic sequencing of African rice, and African foodways in the Americas.

Refreshments provided.

Co-Sponsored by the Environmental Studies and Geography Departments.

Contact: Ann Esson,

This event is for: Students, Staff, Faculty and Public

Sponsored By: Environmental Studies, Geography

Categories: Front Page Events, Lectures and Speakers and Campus Events